Oil spill: Responding with prayer and solidarity Print
Thursday, Jul. 01, 2010 -- 12:00 AM

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Ever since the April 20 explosion and fire on the BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, Americans have stood by, watching helplessly as millions of gallons of oil have poured into the Gulf each day.

We've observed the failed efforts of BP to stop the oil spill. We've seen marine animals covered with the globby black mess. We've heard stories of the economic hardships experienced by fishermen and other workers affected by the disaster.

It's predicted that this man-made disaster will have far worse consequences than Hurricane Katrina five years ago. The Gulf area is still recovering from Katrina and it's now dealing with the oil spill, with no end in sight.

Many of us continue to feel helpless in the face of this situation. What can we do? How can we help?

Power of prayer

First of all, we can pray. We can't underestimate the power of prayer in helping deal with tragedies such as this one.

"We pray first and foremost for those who died in the initial explosion and for the grieving members of their families," said the U.S. Catholic bishops in a June 18 statement written during their spring gathering in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The bishops added. "We express our prayerful support as well for the families and individuals whose lives and livelihoods have been so negatively impacted by the oil that daily contaminates water, beaches, and God's creation in the Gulf Coast area."

We can join the bishops in praying for government and oil industry leaders and experts who are working to cap the leak and repair the damage. We can also pray that our leaders seek lasting solutions benefiting the common good.

Solidarity with Catholic Charities

We can also show our solidarity with Catholic Charities agencies in the Gulf Coast area. Brian Cain, director of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Madison, sent me a report from Kim Burgo, vice president for disaster operations for Catholic Charities USA. Some people might remember Kim Burgo from her presence here during the flooding in our diocese in 2008.

As people in the Diocese of Madison know, Catholic Charities has developed an excellent disaster response effort. This has proven true in the Gulf Coast area. We can be proud of the fact that Catholic Charities agencies in the Gulf have been very active in their response to the crisis.

Catholic Charities is providing mental health assessments and counseling, particularly in anger and stress management. They have also seen increased requests for counseling in regard to domestic violence.

Catholic Charities agencies in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida have also been providing food and assistance to thousands of individuals and families with utilities, household supplies, clothing, employment, rent, mortage payments, doctor/medical needs, prescriptions, and gas/fuel.

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans received $1 million from BP for short-term assistance and has been invited to submit a second proposal. Hopefully Catholic Charities will receive more funds for its excellent relief efforts.

How to help

For those interested in helping, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans is accepting monetary donations to fund its relief work. People may donate online, by mail, or over the phone. If you are interested in donating food, contact Second Harvest at 504-734-1322. If you have additional questions, call 504-592-5685.

For more information, go to the Catholic Charities/New Orleans Web site at